Archive:

April 2010, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Charles Krauthammer Isn't Sure What's Wrong With Obama's New Nuclear Policy:   He thinks it may be either "insane or ridiculous".

I'm not sure why Krauthammer didn't consider the possibility that it could be both.
- 2:51 PM, 8 April 2010
More:  Krauthammer extends, but does not revise, his comments in this column.
- 6:09 AM, 9 April 2010   [link]


Nancy Pelosi Tries To Cheer Us Up:  With, I must say, an even better comedy routine than Harry Reid's recent attempt to cheer us up.   Pelosi came up with this metaphor for ObamaCare.
And while she said it may not be perfect, it's a bold step in the right direction.

"It's like the back of the refrigerator.  You see all these wires and the rest," said Pelosi.  "All you need to know is, you open the door.  The light goes on.  You open this door, you go through a whole different path, in terms of access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans."
Don't you feel better, already?  You don't need to understand how ObamaCare works to enjoy it.  And you don't need to worry about how we will pay for that refrigerator.

Neo-neocon fears that Pelosi is serious, but I think Pelosi's lines are more plausible as part of a comic routine.
- 2:25 PM, 8 April 2010   [link]


The UK General Election:  Four weeks from today, Britain will choose a new parliament.  The best background article I have found on the election is in Wikipedia.  (I won't guarantee that it will stay the best, since political articles in Wikipedia often evolve, and sometimes devolve.)

Here are the basics:
The United Kingdom general election of 2010 will be held on 6 May and have voting in all UK constituencies to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to seats in the House of Commons, the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.  A total of 650 seats will be contested, up from 646 in the previous election in 2005.

The election was called on 6 April, with Parliament to be dissolved on 12 April for the ensuing campaign.  Voting will take place between 7.00 am and 10.00 pm. Local elections will also be held in some areas on that day.

The governing Labour Party will be looking to secure a fourth consecutive term in office and to restore support lost since 1997.[1]  The Conservative Party will seek to regain its dominant position in politics after losses in the 1990s, and to replace Labour as the governing party.  The Liberal Democrats hope to make gains from both sides; although they too would ideally wish to form a government, their more realistic ambition is to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.
A hung parliament, as you can probably guess from the context, is one in which no party has an overall majority.

Right now, the bettors at InTrade expect the Conservatives to win the largest number of seats (86 percent chance), but see a significant chance of a hung parliament (36 percent).  It isn't certain what would happen if no party won a majority, though that has happened often in Britain's past.  Most likely, Labour would form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, whom they have been courting for years.

Whichever party wins, the new government is likely to be less friendly to the United States than British governments in the last three decades.  The leaders will have learned from Gordon Brown's bitter experience with Obama.

(The Speaker of the British House of Commons is officially nonpartisan, if you are wondering how they break ties.)
- 9:54 AM, 8 April 2010   [link]


Did Anti-ObamaCare Demonstrators Shout Racial Epithets At Black Democratic Congressmen?   Here's the charge, which you may find drearily familiar, by now.
On the afternoon of Saturday, March 20, three members of the Congressional Black Caucus claim they were accosted by tea-party protesters while attempting to enter the Capitol. Reps. Andre Carson (D., Ind.) and John Lewis (D., Ga.) say they were called "n***er" repeatedly, and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D., Mo.) says he was spat upon.
(Carson is an ordinary politician (except for being the second Muslim in Congress), who inherited his seat from his grandmother, Julia Carson.  Cleaver is another ordinary politician.  But John Lewis is a genuine hero of the civil rights movement.)

Daniel Foster, of the National Review, has been looking for evidence to support that charge — and not finding it.

Let me summarize what we know so far:
  • Congressmen Carson and Lewis say they heard the epithets; Congressman Cleaver does not report hearing them.
  • The three congressmen chose to walk through the demonstrators, rather than take an underground route.
  • None of the reporters heard the epithets; all of the reporters who have given us this story are repeating what the two congressmen told them, not recounting what they heard personally.
  • So far, though there were literally hundreds of people recording this event, no one has come up with a recording of the epithets.
  • The congressmen have not responded to requests for follow-up interviews from Daniel Foster.
  • Andrew Breitbart has been offering a very large reward for a recording or other definitive evidence of those epithets.  As far as I know, no one has even tried to claim that reward.
  • Congressmen Lewis has a history of using crude racial ploys to make political points.   For example.
We do not know for sure what happened, and may never know, but here are four possible scenarios:
  • Events happened more or less as the congressmen said, and, by chance, were not recorded.
  • Events happened more or less as the congressmen said, but the people shouting the epithets were provocateurs, possibly even Democratic staffers.
  • No epithets were shouted, but the congressmen were expecting to hear them — and did.  Foster mentions this possibility (As I did, earlier).  Eye witnesses, or in this case ear witnesses, often see or hear what they expect to see or hear.
  • The congressmen tried to provoke an incident and, when they failed, concocted a story.
At this point, I think that the fourth is the most likely scenario, but hope, out of respect for Lewis's record, that the third is what actually happened.

Given this uncertainty, how should journalists report this story?  Honestly, of course, and an honest story would go something like this:
Congressmen Lewis and Carson charged that they heard racial epithets.  Demonstrators (and you would want to have names here) say that no one in their group said anything like that.  Others walking with Lewis and Carson did not hear the epithets.  No recordings have been found of the epithets, in spite of a very large reward offered for them.
That is not, I would agree, a very satisfying way to write the story, because it is inconclusive.  But it would be honest, unlike most of the stories on this incident.

(Another separate story is often connected to this one.  At around this same time, Congressman Barney Frank was called a crude name for a homosexual (no, not "tea bagger").  Some of the demonstrators immediately reproved the man who had called Frank the name.)
- 4:39 PM, 7 April 2010   [link]


Dick Morris Predicts A Republican Victory In November:  And he sounds awfully certain in this column.
Meanwhile, the political process will generate more and more strong Republican challengers.  We have yet to see if former Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin or Dino Rossi of Washington state will emerge to challenge Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).  Better House candidates will decide to capitalize on the momentum and will jump into the race and Republican donors will come out of hiding, their efforts catalyzed by the growing optimism about GOP chances.

Presaging the looming Republican sweep is the shift in the party ratings on various issues.   Rasmussen has the Republicans ahead by 49-37 on the economy and 53-37 on healthcare.  His likely-voter poll shows GOP leads on every major issue area: national security (49-37), Iraq (47-39), education (43-30), immigration (47-34), Social Security (48-36) and taxes (52-34).
Morris is predicting that Republicans will gain 50 seats in the House and "at least" 10 seats in the Senate, giving them control of both chambers.

Bettors at InTrade currently disagree with Morris, mildly for the House and strongly for the Senate.

(I haven't studied the numbers and individual races enough to make an informed prediction.  I'll probably do one in May, six months before the election, and then update it as the election gets closer.)
- 10:35 AM, 7 April 2010   [link]


Majority Leader Harry Reid Tries To Cheer Us Up:  And succeeds in my case.

Here's what he told Greta Van Susteren when she asked him about the popularity of ObamaCare.
Because the loud minority made a lot of noise.  Now that the legislation passed, it is amazing how much different people attitude is.   I mean traveling on an airplane people are so nice to me. We have people -- it wasn't that way before.

We have people coming, sending me notes in church. "I have a disabled daughter.  Thank you very much for taking care of her."  People have changed.  Even the Republicans have changed their tone.

I was in Salt Lake doing church business this past weekend, and it was interesting -- the newspapers there and the conservative bastion of America, Utah, even the Republican leaders up there are saying we don't want to change the things that are already in effect.  What we want to improve some of the things that are going to happen later.

So everybody acknowledges with rare exception that what we did was terrific, and if there are some problems in out years we'll be happy to look at them.
(Emphasis added.)

Reid could be lying, could be delusional, or he could be joking.  The last is the most pleasant explanation, so I'll go with that one for now.  If he is joking, it is a pretty darn good joke.  (And it is good to see that he still has a sense of humor, as his political career threatens to come to a crashing end.)

(Cassy Fiano thinks Reid is in denial.)
- 7:58 AM, 7 April 2010   [link]


Higher Taxes On Mass-Market Beer!?  After Christine Gregoire took office in 2005, Washington state Democrats went on a spending spree, treating our tax money as an irresponsible teenager might treat a family credit card.  In Washington state, as in many other states and localities, much of the additional money went to public employees, especially members of public employee unions.  I would not say that ordinary taxpayers have gotten nothing from Governor Gregoire's spending spree, but I would say that we have not gotten our money's worth.

This year, the state's ruling Democrats are again struggling to find money to pay for that spree.  The majority in the state house prefers to raise taxes on business, which will make it harder for businesses to create jobs.  The majority in the state senate prefers to raise the general sales tax, which will make it harder for consumers to pay their bills.  (Both proposals would hit the poor harder than the well-off, the first indirectly, the second directly.)

The two sides have been struggling to find a compromise, something, I assume, that will make it harder for businesses to create jobs and harder for consumers to pay their bills

The latest idea the state's Democrats have floated is an increase in the tax on beer — but only mass market beer.   The tax is not trivial; it would add about 43 cents to the price of a six pack.  It would not apply to the more expensive micro brews.

There is something perversely wonderful about this proposal.  The party that once proudly proclaimed itself the champion of the working class is now considering raising taxes on the iconic drink of the working class.  The party that tells us, endlessly, how much they care about our health, is considering raising taxes on an alcoholic drink, as evidence accumulates for the beneficial health effects of alcohol — when taken in moderation.

Perhaps, and I am being serious, the majority leader of the state senate, Lisa Brown, floated this idea only to be able to claim, later, that they had rejected it for the reasons I outlined above.  Perhaps.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Gregoire promised not to raise taxes during the 2004 campaign — and immediately called for a tax increase after taking office.  I think it fair to conclude that she never intended to keep that promise, just as Bill Clinton never intended to keep his 1992 middle class tax cut promise.)
- 7:07 AM, 7 April 2010   [link]


A New Theory Of Earthquakes:  From Deepak Chopra.

It's a promising theory, because it offers us a way to control earthquakes, but I fear that geologists, who have their own theories, will not take to it.

The Instapundit points out that those who suffered from this last earthquake now have grounds to sue Chopra.

(The theory is new to me, but may not be new to others.  Chopra often appears on the local PBS station, and may have outlined his theory there.  I must confess that I have never seen any of those programs.)
- 6:05 AM, 7 April 2010   [link]


Did The North Koreans Torpedo A South Korean Naval Ship On March 26th?  Probably, say the South Koreans, who are still investigating.

If an attack doesn't make sense to you in ordinary strategic terms, then you should consider this:
But a retired chief of naval operations said, "In 2002 when the World Cup reached its climax, the North unexpectedly provoked the second battle of Yeonpyeong in the West Sea.  The North has done many things that are inexplicable by common sense."
But explicable if you think the regime wants to continue to extort aid from us, and the South Koreans, by showing how much trouble they can cause.
- 5:15 PM, 6 April 2010   [link]


Democratic Senator Chris Dodd Is Proposing To Destroy Start-Ups:  And if that won't help kill our economic recovery, I don't know what will.

He almost certainly doesn't intend to destroy start-ups; he just knows so little about business (and the benefits of economic freedom) that he has come up with a proposal that will have effects that he does not understand.  He's just chairman of the Senate banking committee, so there is no reason for him to understand business, especially investing.

For the horrifying details of his proposal, start here.  Or look here, where Dodd's proposal is called "Complete Economic Madness".  And you will want to look at Jonathan's comment at that second link.

(Mind Boggled:  This morning, I woke up to read about this proposal and Obama's bizarre proposal on changing our nuclear posture.  I could have taken on either of them, but the two of them together were a bit much, even after I had had my morning coffee.  So I went to do some chores, and learned that I might as well replace my bicycle, considering how much it will cost to repair it.  (It's about fifteen years old, so I was not surprised, just disappointed.)

I could have said "disgraced" Democratic senator, or something like that, but decided Dodd's proposal is so bad that I should put his ethical problems aside for a moment.)
- 4:15 PM, 6 April 2010   [link]


1946 All Over Again?  Michael Barone looks at the biggest Republican congressional victory since the New Deal, and finds some similarities to this year.

Here are his first and last paragraphs:
Recent polls tell me that the Democratic Party is in the worst shape I have seen during my 50 years of following politics closely.  So I thought it would be interesting to look back at the biggest Republican victory of the last 80 years, the off-year election of 1946.  Republicans in that election gained 13 seats in the Senate and emerged with a 51-45 majority there, the largest majority that they enjoyed between 1930 and 1980.  And they gained 55 seats in the House, giving them a 246-188 majority in that body, the largest majority they have held since 1930.  The popular vote for the House was 53% Republican and 44% Democratic, a bigger margin than Republicans have won ever since.  And that's even more impressive when you consider that in 1946 Republicans did not seriously contest most seats in the South.  In the 11 states that had been part of the Confederacy, Democrats won 103 of 105 seats and Republicans won only 2 seats in east Tennessee.  In the 37 non-Confederate states, in contrast, Republicans won 246 of 330 seats, compared to only 85 for Democrats.
. . .
The parallels between the political situation in 1946 and 2010 are limited but instructive.  Americans once again are faced with proposals that would vastly expand the size and scope of government.  And they are faced by proposals to increase the power of labor unions.  Public opinion polls show that in 2010, as in 1946, most Americans reject such policies.  Republicans in 1946 were prepared to advance policies that turned America away from such policies.  The question is whether Republicans in 2010, with the prospect but not the assurance, of winning a majority in the House and perhaps a majority in the Senate, are similarly prepared.
One of the big issues in 1946 was price controls on meat — which resulted, naturally, in shortages.  Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have just given us a health insurance "reform" plan that includes price controls.  I will leave as a exercise for the reader the likely result of those price controls.

Whether or not you think that 1946 may tell us something about what will happen this November, you will, if you are at all interested in American elections, find his description of what happened in 1946 worth reading.

(The 1946 election had long-lasting effects.  For example, it knocked out so many Northern Democrats from usually safe seats that Southern Democrats held a disproportionate share of committee chairmanships for decades afterwards.   Among other things, this made it difficult to pass civil rights legislation.)
- 8:00 AM, 6 April 2010   [link]


It's A Mistake to draw any political conclusions from Obama's botched first pitch, but I couldn't help noticing that, like our deficits, it was very high — and wide to the left.

(According to some news reports, he practiced for that pitch.)
- 7:26 AM, 6 April 2010
More:  Some will naturally want to see this comparison of Bush and Obama pitches.   And a few may want to see this touching video of Bush's post 9/11 pitch at Yankee Stadium.
- 10:57 AM, 7 April 2010   [link]


Gwen Ifill On Barack Obama:  As she reviews David Remnick's biography of Obama, The Bridge, she has some sharp things to say about our president.

Two samples:
Remnick efficiently strips some of the gloss off the version Obama offered in his best-selling 1995 memoir "Dreams From My Father," charitably and accurately describing that effort as "a mixture of verifiable fact, recollection, recreation, invention and artful shaping."  Obama, Remnick points out, ended each section with climactic, somewhat overwrought descriptions of himself in tears -- as he sees his father in a dream, discovers his spiritual roots in church, visits his father's grave.   I totally bought all of this the first time I read "Dreams."  I don't know that I would today -- in part because I am a professional skeptic when it comes to the people I cover, and in part because it's difficult to conceive of cool cucumber Obama being that overcome by emotion.
. . .
Lacking power, Obama is shown to be the ultimate pragmatist. If he can't be in control, he is ready to move on.  Remnick mentions frequently how easily Obama can get bored.  He was bored at Occidental, the first college he attended; bored at the University of Chicago, where as a teacher he focused on writing his first book; bored in the Illinois Senate; and even bored in the U.S. Senate, where he was more interested in writing his second book.

Remnick obviously admires the president, so he does not interpret such lofty boredom as peevish or self-absorbed, as critics might.
(Or anyone with a lick of sense.)

So Obama is, according to Ifill, not entirely honest about his past, and easily bored, as intellectually lazy people often are.

There's more in the review, which does not tempt me to buy the book, but does make me more willing to read more from Ifill, or even, from time to time, watch her on television.
- 10:33 AM, 5 April 2010   [link]


CBS Misses George W. Bush:  Maybe not everyone at CBS, but enough so that, last night, 60 Minutes ran this segment, celebrating Bush's efforts to control AIDS in Africa.

CBS gave the former president credit for saving millions of lives in Africa, credit that he deserves but seldom gets.  (Except in the African countries.)
- 10:14 AM, 5 April 2010   [link]


Everybody Wins?  That, minus the question mark, was the headline on this New York Times editorial.  (It was put on the net on April 1st, but, given the subject, I am nearly certain that it was not intended as a joke.)
The new automobile fuel economy standards formally adopted by the Obama administration on Thursday will yield a trifecta of benefits: reduced dependence on foreign oil, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and consumer savings at the pump.
Everybody except those who lose their lives in the lighter cars.
The Obama fuel efficiency plan may also contribute to a significant increase in highway deaths as vehicles are required to quickly meet the new CAFE standard and will likely become lighter in weight as a result.  According to a study completed in 2001 by the National Research Council (NRC), the last major increase in CAFE standards, mandated by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, required about a 50% increase in fuel economy (to 27.5 mpg by model year 1985 from an average of 18 mpg in 1978).  The NRC study concluded that the subsequent downsizing and down-weighting of vehicles, "while resulting in significant fuel savings, also resulted in a safety penalty."  Specifically, the NRC estimated that in 1993 there were between 1,300 and 2,600 motor vehicle crash deaths that would not have occurred if cars were as heavy as they were in 1976.
In other words, we have been trading blood for oil, and the New York Times wants us to trade even more blood for oil.  Do the editorial writers not know about the greater dangers of lighter cars, or do they not care about those dangers?  Most likely, the writers don't know because they don't want to know.  And since they work for the New York Times, they may feel that they deserve to have their own "facts", even when those facts are contradicted by widely available scientific evidence.

(Have those facts appeared in the New York Times?  Yes.  A casual search found examples here and here, and a more thorough search would probably find many more.

More here and here, including the interesting fact that a five star safety rating does not mean the same thing for a compact car as it does for a mid-size car.

Careful design can make lighter cars much safer, but it is very difficult to make inexpensive light cars much safer, as any engineer could tell you.

Full disclosure:  I have driven light cars for decades, while recognizing that they are not as safe as heavier cars.  But that's my choice, not the government's.  And I compensate in other ways.  I wore seat belts long before they were legally required, and was delighted when shoulder harnesses became available.  Whenever possible, I avoid driving in dangerous conditions, which is easier to do when you are retired.)
- 8:11 AM, 5 April 2010   [link]


Kids In Bipolar Seattle:  This New York Times article is unintentionally revealing.

Jennifer Piper, who has a 20-month-old son, explains:

"I think the city is a little bipolar when it comes to kids," she added.  "It hasn't figured it out yet."

Mrs. Piper is not alone in sensing the tension.  At one time Seattle was at the front of the curve in becoming a so-called childless city.  Ten years ago, only 4.7 percent of its population was younger than 5, compared with the national average of 6.8 percent.  Livable and literate, the city nurtured the notion that growing does not stop with being a grown-up.  Well-educated 40-somethings are at ease here, free to seek selfhood without being pestered to procreate.

But a few more have in recent years, and so now Seattle is talking about doing something to improve the city for the kids.  I don't expect the city under its new mayor, Mike McGinn, to do anything radical, like moving the homeless out of even one downtown park so children can play there safely, or doing much to improve the Seattle public schools, which are politically correct, but, on the average, only mediocre.  (The saddest thing in the article comes from Shakoe English, who explains that she moved to Seattle so that her son could have a teacher of the correct color.  Few in Seattle would find that odd.)

With all due respect to Mrs. Piper, I think the city of Seattle has figured it out.  In principle, most Seattle citizens want to make the city better for kids; in practice, they find it hard to make real improvements, because so many of the necessary changes conflict with the politically-correct ideologies in the city to my west.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:48 PM, 4 April 2010   [link]


Happy Easter!  To all those who celebrate it today.

Easter flowers, 2008

- 6:46 AM, 4 April 2010   [link]


Just Don't Call It Profiling:  The Obama administration is switching from crude profiling of airline passengers to more sophisticated profiling.
The Obama administration is abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which U.S.-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern, senior officials said Thursday.

After the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day, U.S. officials hastily decided that passengers from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches. Critics have since called the measures discriminatory and overly burdensome, and the administration has faced pressure to refine its approach.

Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence.  The system will be "much more intel-based," a senior administration official said, "as opposed to blunt force."
We can be tentatively pleased by this policy change — and still note that most "mainstream" reporters would have labeled both policies "profiling", had they been put in place by the Bush administration.

(For the record:  I have never seen anything wrong with profiling in principle, even in law enforcement.  And I think it is essential to use profiling, wisely, in our anti-terrorism efforts.)
- 12:21 PM, 3 April 2010   [link]


Basketball, Politics, Or Both?  Here's what Obama said in a recent interview.
President Obama hit the basketball court and talked politics with CBS "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith this morning.

Smith asked Mr. Obama, who is left-handed, if he can ever go to his right.

"I can go to my right, but I prefer my left," the president says.
I think Obama and Smith meant both.  And I kind of like the sly double meaning.

Having said that, I will add that I would give high odds that the interview was not hard hitting.
- 11:46 AM, 2 April 2010   [link]


More On Alex Giannoulias And Organized Crime:  The Chicago Tribune has been doing some digging, and what they have dug up is unpleasant.
The family bank of Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias loaned a pair of Chicago crime figures about $20 million during a 14-month period when Giannoulias was a senior loan officer, according to a Tribune examination that provides new details about the bank's relationship with the convicted felons.

Broadway Bank had already lent millions to Michael Giorango when he and a new business partner, Demitri Stavropoulos, came to the bank in mid-2004.  Although both men were preparing to serve federal prison terms, the bank embarked on a series of loans to them.
The loans were not profitable.
Broadway is now suing to recover millions of the pair's delinquent loans as the bank struggles to avoid a federal takeover.  While Broadway lawyers now criticize Giorango's business practices, the newspaper's examination of court files, land records and public bank documents raises questions about the bank's decisions to make loans to men with criminal histories.
You'd think Broadway would have wanted to know something about the backgrounds of Giorango and Stavropoulos before loaning them millions.  (My guess is that some officers of the bank did know about their backgrounds.)

Despite these revelations, Giannoulias has had a lead in polls.  And he does have one significant advantage; he's a long-time ally of Barack Obama — who has never shown any sign of being bothered by Broadway's business practices.
- 11:33 AM, 2 April 2010   [link]


Why Does Obama Keep Offending America's Allies?  Charles Krauthammer goes through the usual list of Obama offenses to our allies, but ends up not being able to explain Obama's actions.
Well, said David Manning, a former British ambassador to the United States, to a House of Commons committee reporting on that very relationship:  "[Obama] is an American who grew up in Hawaii, whose foreign experience was of Indonesia and who had a Kenyan father.  The sentimental reflexes, if you like, are not there."

I'm not personally inclined to neuropsychiatric diagnoses, but Manning's guess is as good as anyone's.  How can you explain a policy toward Britain that makes no strategic or moral sense?  And even if you can, how do you explain the gratuitous slaps to the Czechs, Poles, Indians and others?  Perhaps when an Obama Doctrine is finally worked out, we shall learn whether it was pique, principle or mere carelessness.
Or, and this is my guess, ideology.  All of Obama's offenses make sense if you assume that Obama has a leftist ideology of the kind that is common in his Chicago neighborhood, Hyde Park, and that, like most civil rights attorneys, he tends to see almost everything in racial terms.
- 6:49 AM, 2 April 2010
Mark Steyn makes the same point — Obama is acting out his leftist ideology — at more length, and much more cleverly, than I did.
- 6:14 PM, 4 April 2010   [link]


Not An April Fool Joke:  Though it reads like one.  In the arms control agreement just negotiated between the United States and Russia, twenty nuclear warheads can sometimes be counted as one.

This may be picky of me, but I think we should count every nuclear warhead.  Very carefully.

(Imagine what our "mainstream" journalists would say if a big company used similar methods to count bonuses.)
- 1:07 PM, 1 April 2010   [link]


Libya Has Remarkable health care.
The freed Lockerbie bomber will today celebrate his birthday in a Libyan mansion - almost eight months after the 'dying' man was released from prison.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi is said to have made a 'remarkable recovery' after being allowed to return home from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds last year.
He may have benefitted from the support he has received from Libyans.
Megrahi is viewed as a national hero by Libyans and some 30,000 well-wishers are said to have visited him since August.  Many have also sent birthday wishes, as well as presents ranging from books to food.  Queues of pilgrims still form outside his home.

Megrahi spends most of his time propped up in bed, working on an autobiography that he hopes will help clear his name.

His brother, Mohammed Ali, said: 'He is greatly loved by Libyans.  If God wills it he will remain with his people.'
Did the Scottish authorities who decided to release this mass murderer expect this?  (They were warned that it might happen.)
- 9:54 AM, 1 April 2010   [link]


Bad News For Congressional Democrats From Gallup:  Republicans almost always trail Democrats on the generic congressional question, but not in Gallup's latest poll of registered voters.
Registered voters now say they prefer the Republican to the Democratic candidate in their district by 47% to 44% in the midterm congressional elections, the first time the GOP has led in 2010 election preferences since Gallup began weekly tracking of these in March.
. . .
These results suggest the Republicans would have a strong showing if the midterm elections were held today.   Since Republicans usually vote at higher rates than Democrats, the Republicans' edge in voter preferences would likely exceed what the registered voter results indicate.

A Republican advantage among all registered voters in midterm elections has been rare in Gallup's 60-year history of tracking congressional voting preferences, happening only a few times each in the 1950, 1994, and 2002 election cycles -- all years in which Republicans had strong Election Day showings.
It may be even worse for Democratic candidates that those overall numbers, judging by this analysis of the distribution of Obama's support.
By the numbers, black voters are Obama's core base of support. They support him more solidly than any other demographic group—more than young voters, more than postgraduate degree holders.  Of course, every politician has a core constituency. What's extraordinary about President Obama's is not just the uniformity of support within his core constituency, but the difference in both degree and trajectory between this base and the rest of the electorate.
Every other group has moved away from Obama, but blacks have, if anything, become more loyal.

Unfortunately for Democratic House candidates, blacks are mostly in the wrong districts
While about 12 percent of Americans are black, relatively few congressional districts have an average demographic make up.  Because of gerrymandering, mandated majority-minority districting, and simple geographic diversity, blacks tend to be concentrated in certain congressional districts.  There are 31 districts with a black population over 40 percent.  Only 132 districts are above the national average in terms of black population—leaving 303 districts below the national average.
. . .
This uneven dispersal magnifies the disparity of approval between Obama's base and the rest of the country.  If relatively few congressional districts look like America, then in most congressional districts Obama's job approval is likely to be lower—anywhere from 2 to 7 points lower—than the national average.  (Conversely, in a smaller number of districts it is likely to be much, much higher.)
Democratic candidates who understand this will try to distance themselves from Obama, but the Democratic leaders seem intent on forcing them to make highly publicized votes in favor of Obama programs, which will make that strategy more difficult to pull off.
- 9:07 AM, 1 April 2010   [link]


Congressman Hank Johnson Has A Great Line:  (And he acts it out with just the right hand gestures.)  But he mistimed it, since he must have meant it as an April Fool's joke.

And you have to admit that, as an April Fool's joke, it's brilliant.

(Credit and debit where due:  Johnson, who represents the 5th district in Georgia, defeated nasty crackpot Cynthia McKinney in a primary to win his seat.  But after he got to Congress, he sponsored a resolution calling for the impeachment of Vice President Cheney.)
- 8:05 AM, 1 April 2010   [link]


Haiti Is Planning To Decentralize:  That's the surprising — and pleasing — story I found in yesterday's New York Times, under "Architecture".
Prepared by a group of urban planners from the Haitian government agency responsible for the country's development, the plan is built around a bold central idea: to redistribute large parts of the population of Port-au-Prince to smaller Haitian cities, many of them at a safe distance from areas most vulnerable to natural disaster.  In the process the plan would completely transform Haiti from a country dominated by a single metropolis to what the planners call a network of smaller urban "growth poles."
. . .
By relocating many schools and hospitals to smaller cities, planners hope to create an economic incentive to keep people from returning to Port-au-Prince once reconstruction begins. The new buildings could be organized around public squares and parks to provide civic centers to communities sorely lacking in them.
Good luck to them, though I can't help noting that Haiti has been officially in favor of decentralizing since 1987 — and has continued to become more centralized, year after year.

(In recent decades, most American planners have been urban planners, who are convinced that people, at least other people, should live in large and dense cities.  That there are drawbacks to such cities, as well as benefits, does not affect their thinking much.  And that most Americans, probably most people, prefer not to live in such cities affects their thinking not at all, except as a problem to be overcome.)
- 6:31 AM, 1 April 2010   [link]